This long weekend has not been so cool for an old Eels dude.
The weather’s been far too hot, and too much of the finals scene left me hot under the collar when what I really needed was time to chill.
I’ve now got a fever and more cowbell is not the prescription. I’m looking for the magic elixir of laying down some Mind-Trip vibes
Last week’s post was outta sight. Many of you told me I was right on, and some of you told me I was trippin. What a groove to have our commune of footy heads rapping about the game and the team we love, even when some of us get a bit uptight.
This week’s words follow. Groove away.
Fake News Freaks Me Out
Sometimes it feels like there’s some sort of finals footy fuzz putting up the second week barricades to Eels fans. There’s no denying that Parra’s last couple of finals campaigns have come to a screeching halt after just two matches. That’s keeping it real.
But on NRL 360 last week, both Paul Kent and James Hooper invented a history of the Eels coming into finals campaigns without any momentum. It was their attempt to turn a 2020 flat spot into a deeper club issue, with potential ramifications for the coach.
Hooper even doubled down by suggesting that in the past, the Eels had come charging out of the gates in the early rounds each season. He likened his imaginary Parra late season drop off to the Dragons capitulations.
What a shock to see not one shred of truth in anything these journos had to say. It would have only taken a couple of minutes for either to research some facts.
In 2017, the Eels came into the finals on the back of winning 9 of their last 10 games. After losing the qualifying final 18-16 to the Storm, in controversial circumstances, the Eels could not lift the following week, going down 24 -16 to the Cowboys. It should be noted that the Storm romped home 30 nil and 34 to 6 in their next two matches on their way to winning the title.
Then in 2019, Parra won 8 of their last 11, including a convincing win over Manly in the last round with both teams competing for 5th spot. This was followed up by the record 58 to nil win over Broncos in the elimination final. The poor loss to the Storm in the second week was a disappointing way to bow out.
Finally, this year the Eels lost only five games in the regular season, and despite a flat spot, won 3 of last 4 to finish 3rd.
And in further evidence of the atrocious standard of Hooper’s “research”, the Eels began both the 2017 and 2019 seasons winning five of their first eleven matches. Maybe that’s his interpretation of charging out of the gates, but it wouldn’t be shared by too many punters.
Unfortunately, most supporters have short memories, especially when it doesn’t involve their own team, so fake might be accepted as truth.
Even worse, this bloke gets paid for this dribble. Being opinionated without substation shouldn’t earn you your living.
Bummer – Captain’s Challenge Becomes Captain’s Chaos
What a drag! For all the good of the Captain’s challenge, the system fell apart embarrassingly for the NRL at the most crucial time of the year.
Firstly, we witnessed the confusion in Canberra as Cronulla Captain Wade Graham attempted to challenge a ruck penalty, only to have Grant Atkins allow the quick tap and the ensuing try to the Raiders.
Technically, Atkins was proven correct, but how many punters, commentators, players or coaches knew that?
They will now, but it remains a grey area?
Captains can’t challenge discretionary penalties, but we’ve certainly seen the inverse haven’t we? Captains have challenged lost possession when they ball is being played, with the aim of winning the discretionary penalty. The confusion would be understandable.
Wasn’t that the reasoning that Ashley Klein provided in allowing the Storm to challenge an offside at the play the ball call?
Long after the time permitted, long after the replays appeared on the big screen, the challenge was accepted. The rationale given – confusion about the call. Thankfully they got the challenge wrong.
Anyone else confused?
Gould Is Not One Of The Beautiful People
The observations of Phil Gould aren’t everyone’s bag. That’s not to say that the man doesn’t know his football, but as time marches on, its seems he’s showing more disdain towards opinions that are not his own.
There was a time when he was mostly righteous, a truly cool and innovative young footballer and coach. Now he plays the role of a professional provocateur in different media platforms. Whether he’s more considered and balanced in his personal interactions with people matters little to me. At some point we are all subjected to his opinionated takes, given his positioning across both mainstream and social media.
Gould’s contempt for the Eels found a new pinnacle when he dismissed their match against the Storm as a training run for Melbourne.
That’s an unacceptable insult to players from both teams who busted a gut in the match and especially those who emerged with injury. Furthermore, it’s disrespectful to everyone associated with the Eels, including members and supporters.
Maybe Mr Gould should channel Hollywood and Zorba from 1981. Zorba declared that the Eels were no chance of winning with the likes of Stumpy Stevens and the Bear in their pack. He said he’d walk from Wollongong to Sydney in thongs if they won the title.
Credit to Peter Peters, Parra won and he and Hartley made that walk. Maybe Gould should offer to walk from Penrith to Parra in thongs, or a thong, if Parra wins this year. Do it for charity. I’m sure plenty of us would be prepared to donate into a fund this week, with the proceeds to go to said charity regardless.
Or does his trash talking of the Eels just come cheap?
Losing My Cool
I tried, I really tried to not fire up about Ashley Klein. He wasn’t the reason for the Eels losing to the Storm. He didn’t make poor defensive decisions, or fumble the footy.
However, I can’t ignore the fact that his officiating made a tough task even tougher.
Great teams have the capacity to overcome tough calls or the bounce of the ball that doesn’t go their way. A benchmark team like the Storm can do that.
Conversely, the Storm are enough of a challenge for any opposition without luck or calls falling their way. A team needs to be next level special to overcome advantages earned or falling to the Storm.
The Eels were not able to reach those special heights on Saturday night.
Apart from all officials missing the one big call for an eight point try to Shaun Lane, the rest of the match was a litany of unacceptably poor officiating. It began with the Storm being allowed to keep the Eels waiting on the field and continued to missed offsides, allowing stalling tactics at the scrum without signalling time off, the aforementioned late captain’s challenge, and stopping the Eels momentum at a critical time for a Storm player with cramp – it just wasn’t NRL standard refereeing.
Throw in Klein’s failure to refer the Papenhuyzen try to the bunker, and it’s a collection of decisions that no team should face. Ultimately Klein may have been proven correct in awarding that Papenhuyzen try, but it’s standard practice to check tries whenever the ball comes free in contact or players run behind team mates in searching for a hole to run through. Both of those occurred and we know this ref’s recent history for not checking.
If Klein continues to be rated in the top four referees in the NRL, then questions must be asked.
30 As Hip As 20?
This switched on cat that I know laid an interesting thought on me last week.
We were rapping about six-agains, and confusion around set re-start calls on a 20 metre 7 tackle set. He suggested a straight forward solution.
Instead of 7 tackles from the 20 metre line, have six tackles commencing on the 30 metre mark.
Momentary mind blow!
It certainly simplifies the count process, and given that most teams gain around ten metres on that first tackle, it’s a fair trade off. Furthermore, the sprint back in defence to the forty metre mark keeps that advantage for the team in possession.
I’m not a person who advocates unnecessary rule changes, but I found this suggestion interesting enough to share.
Time To Get Heavy
When is a 36 to 24 loss in a finals match acceptable?
The answer is, never.
But given the circumstances that unfolded during the Eels loss to the Storm – injuries, lack of possession and the flow of referee calls – we witnessed an effort-filled performance which should not have lost any supporters.
And in an interesting side-note, the possession rate of 57% to 43% matched the possession rate from the 2019 finals match between the two teams. The score line did not.
The Eels have bowed out in the second week of the finals in their last two campaigns. Each time the performance was well below their best, indicative of a team who was lacking in resilience.
This week’s final against the Rabbitohs is a line in the sand moment. Losing players presents a hurdle, but Souths have not been without similar challenges.Win or lose, the Eels must not give anything less that their all, that includes effort and just plain football smarts. That is a non-negotiable.
At their best, the Eels can beat the Bunnies. With a larger attendance permitted, it will be a big match atmosphere at Bankwest Stadium – and we know how much the Eels rise in front of a pumping home crowd.
I’ll be there, my old man transcendental dance moves finely tuned in finals victory mode.
Can you dig it?